Mr. Julio Lopes, Secretary of Transport of the State of Rio de Janeiro, recently visited the World Bank to present what the city is doing to improve the quality of public transport. It is a fascinating example of how cities can improve urban transport, with a clear target of benefiting the poor and reducing a city’s carbon footprint.
Open Government is increasingly perceived as a new paradigm for ICT-enabled government transformation offering a number of instruments for improved governance, transparency and innovation. Ulyanovsk Oblast of Russia has already made substantial progress in e-government, IT industry development and IT literacy, and has taken practical steps that have made it an early leader in Open Government initiatives in Russia, as recognized in a study published in May 2012 by the Russian Institute of the Information Society.
This week in Doha, the marble corridors of the Qatar National Convention Center resonate with voices from around the world. Over half way through the UN Climate Change Conference, as ministers arrive and the political stakes pick up, a sense of greater urgency in the formal negotiations is almost palpable. But in the corridors, negotiations are already leading to deals and dreams and action on the ground.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussions by saying we need optimism, because without optimism there are no results. He reminded us all that Superstorm Sandy was a tragic awakening. He reiterated the call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement and 100 billion in climate finance by 2020.
Meanwhile our focus was firmly on the region ...
- Yemen, Republic of
- Western Sahara
- United Arab Emirates
- Syrian Arab Republic
- South Sudan
- Saudi Arabia
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Urban Development
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- food security
- Climate Change
- Ban Ki-moon
We all have the currency of a country or two in our wallets; maybe a passport too. We can be brought to tears when we see ‘our’ flag unfurled at the Olympics or a World Cup. Sure there are great sporting rivalries between cities like Milan and Barcelona, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and (in that other football) Dallas vs. Washington. But it’s countries that need flags and currencies, languages and laws, to inspire passion and fidelity. Running a country is about protecting an idea, an ideal, and a dream. Psychologically and physically countries have borders – barriers to entry and exit; people, ideas, money – it all needs to be controlled by a national authority.
Cities are different. Cities are anchored to a specific place. A sheltered port, the mouth of a river, a fertile valley, or a strategic vantage point: cities emerge where geography and opportunity combine. Much has been written on the creative class – that fickle, mobile group of professionals wandering the planet looking for their next engagement. City officials may actively seek them, but far more important are those people willing to stay and fight for their city. With links and roots like children, mortgages, and history, people who feel they belong are the foundation of every city.
“What attributes do you want your city to possess in 2025?”
As the share of the global population living in cities soars beyond 50%, answering this question is central for sustainable development. It is also central to Warren Evans, Senior Advisor at the World Bank, who is leading a study on what role the World Bank should play in sustainable development in 2025. But he agreed with us that it’s a question too often posed to senior decision makers. To instead find out what youth want their cities to look like – after all, they will be the ones in charge by then – Julianne and I ran a series of participatory workshops with professional and low-income youth, aged 15 to 30, to solicit their responses. We held at least three workshops in each of the four cities we visited – Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok, and Washington DC – with 10-20 participants per session. The workshops were comprised of three activities:
- Describe your city: in a word. Participants shared a word or a phrase defining where they were from.
The next time you're in a new city, maybe jet-lagged, try to wake-up early and take a walk: The earlier the better. Watch as the city wakes, the merchants restock their shelves and workers take away the waste. Street sweepers and garbage collectors take advantage of the quiet streets; people open offices and stores; the calm before the rush. Perhaps your hotel is near a market – check out how early the bakers and farmers start working. A few newspapers are still delivered before the sun rises.
While walking and watching the city wake, also look beneath your feet. There the pipes deliver water and gas; sewers take away wastewater. And if you’re in Europe most of the electricity is delivered through underground piping as well (strange how cities in the US and Canada, where hurricanes are common, have most power lines above ground, while Europe, with fewer storms but more concern for aesthetics, have most power lines buried).
Cities around the world face a serious fiscal crisis following the Great Recession of 2008. Five years later, the after-effects of this crisis continue to be felt and limit economic opportunities in cities.
Revenue of cities around the world—either generated by municipalities or derived from State transfers—have decreased sharply because of the economic slowdown, as did the fiscal value of real property. Some local governments also lost major assets that they invested in risk funds and banks that collapsed during the crisis. City expenditures—especially spending to address social needs—rose because of the slowdown in economic activity and the corresponding increases in unemployment and social welfare needs. The decline in revenue and increase in expenditure led many cities to experience the worst “fiscal crunch” in decades. Financing capacities shrank owing to the difficulty in obtaining loans and the increase in the cost of money. Banks and bond issuers—the main financiers of cities—have been heavily impacted. The credit rating of cities was heavily impacted because of declines in the tax base, expenditure pressures and increasing debt. Foreign investment to finance infrastructure has declined; operations underway have been put on hold and many projects have either been cancelled or delayed.
While green buildings, by their most obvious definition, address environmental impacts, they also have wide implications for human health, safety and productivity. Well-ventilated green schools can reduce instances of asthma in students. Green offices with day lit spaces boost employee productivity and attendance. Patients heal faster in green hospitals with views to nature.
What would blogs be good for if it were not for their intent on steering a bit of controversy?
So here it is… I do not believe that behavior change interventions can effect lasting change in people’s travel patterns unless real choices are available to them within the local context.
What would you give up to continue using your mobile phone? For most of the six billion mobile subscribers around the world, the sacrifice might be measured in terms of a marginal loss of privacy, or of time.
New York City has been a global leader in proactively planning and preparing for climate change under Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s civic leaders. PlanNYC sets out clear goals and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% and to increase the resilience of our communities, natural systems, and infrastructure to climate risks. It already started the process of adapting to climate change, including elevating infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plant, and expanding “green infrastructure” like marshes along the coast to buffer and limit flooding impacts.
But the events triggered by the unprecedented hurricane Sandy haven shown that what has been done is still not sufficient. What can we learn from the disaster? There will be a lot of valuable lessons coming out in the months ahead, as emergency responses are still ongoing and reconstruction are yet to start. Here are three early lessons:
Got back from a fascinating week visiting Oxfam India last week, so the next few days’ post will be on India, sadly the world leader in poverty (by a long way). One of the areas that Oxfam is keen to develop there is its work on urban poverty, where it already works with migrant labourers, waste pickers, domestic workers, and on issues such as housing and access to identity papers. So I spent a couple of days visiting programmes and talking to partners in the slums of Delhi and Lucknow. (I prepped by reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers – wonderful book)
I know they’re grim to live in, but I have to confess to really enjoying visits to urban ‘informal settlements’, especially at dusk, with that particular sense of intimacy as cooking smells and firesmoke drift through the air and domestic workers, rickshaw pullers and street vendors return at the end of another hardscrabble day to grab an hour or two to socialize and relax.
But today, we’re encroaching on that precious leisure time, chatting to an animated group of slum leaders, mainly women, on the edge of Lucknow (see pic). Here, an Oxfam partner, the Vigyan Foundation, is promoting community organization to demand identity papers, water and sanitation, and access to health and education.
When it comes to urban development, “green” has become the buzzword. Among the public, “green” is often understood to be synonymous with reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In policymaking, “green” has much broader implications. It can range from preventing, treating, and abating pollution, to preserving and restoring environmental quality. It may simply be providing basic urban services which improve the cleanliness of streets. Apparently, there are different shades of “green” — we could define interventions targeting global public goods as dark green and those focusing more on local public goods as light green. Among them, what is the right one for South Asian cities?
Practitioners and government officials from the region had intensive discussions on this question throughout a recent workshop on urbanization in Korea, organized by the World Bank in collaboration with the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements.
Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.
Energy fuels economic development and the evidence is before our eyes every day. Businesses require a steady supply of energy to produce goods and services. Electricity allows school children to study after sunset and hospitals need it to save lives Insufficient or irregular energy supply is associated with significant economic cost for businesses and households. Lack of access to clean energy also creates a myriad of health and environmental hazards, such as indoor pollution from cooking on traditional open-fire stoves and deforestation.
Unfortunately, affordable access to clean energy remains an elusive dream for most Tanzanians, especially those living outside of urban centers and the poor:
Last week a group of Bank staff joined our clients from the South Asia region for an Urbanization Knowledge Platform event on green cities. The event was held in Seoul and Daegu, respectively the largest and third-largest cities in Korea. It was hosted by the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements (KRIHS), Korea’s premier institute responsible for urban, regional, infrastructure, land, and housing planning and research. The idea was for clients and Bank staff to learn firsthand about green city development as it happens on the ground in Korea. The following are my six takeaways from the workshops and field visits during the week.